Everyone in our family loves cities. We love the thrill of discovery that comes from turning a corner and seeing a beautiful building or a bustling restaurant, and the excitement that comes from so many people all together.

Not everyone in our family loves nature. But Nell and I do. My biggest worry about living in a sprawling city this year was whether I’d still see trees and hear birds (absolutely yes on the trees – we have them growing on our roof and dominating the skyline – and definitely yes on the birds– there is a flock of seagulls that lives in our neighborhood, and if you sit on our terrace and just listen, you’d think you were at the beach).

But sometimes, Nell and I need more nature than we get from our Roman neighborhood’s flora and fauna.

Fortunately, the city is packed with parks that range from sculpted to wild. One recent Sunday, we set off to explore the famous Rome rose garden. The garden is at the base of the Aventino hill, just across from the Forum and Palatine Hill on the far side of the Circo Massimo.

Originally, this land was the Jewish cemetery, and the lanes are laid out in the shape of a menorah. The garden has a very short season given the heat, but it is spectacular, with over 1,000 varieties to see. It was too hot for Nell to sketch, but she took photo after photo of roses to draw at home.

Afterwards, we climbed the Aventino to picnic in the Giardino degli Aranci (Garden of the Oranges). The layout of this park is very unusual. In the center is a big grove of orange trees, whose fruit perfumes the air. Surrounding them are my favorite Roman umbrella pines, which shade the walkways. And at the far end is a terrace overlooking a spectacular view of the city. We ate the fresh sweet cherries that are at the peak of their season and enjoyed the scented air and views.

A few blocks away is a somewhat obscure but very cool tourist sight, the keyhole of the knights of Malta. There’s a doorway in a high wall that holds a keyhole that offers a rather amazing view over the property of three sovereign powers (Italy, Malta, and the Vatican), directly onto St. Peter’s Cathedral a few kilometers away.

While we could have still taken in more nature, a more urgent destination beckoned: the Il Gelato outpost on Viale Aventino. Roses are red (sometimes), and oranges are orange, but there’s nothing like gelato after a long hot walk!

– Jenny

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